Visiting Ream National Park
18 km (11 miles) south of Sihanoukville, Ream National Park was established in 1993 to protect a patch of coastal rainforest and marine areas, 21,000 hectares in total. It is at the extreme south of Cambodia, almost on the border with Vietnam.
The journey on a small boat with a park ranger takes you on the Prek Toek Sap river from which you can observe a thick mangrove on both sides. I always enjoy sailing in mangroves. It is a really fascinating environment, and there is often a lot of life to be observed among the forest of roots.
There is also some intriguing man-made features: long poles sticking out of the water. They were installed by fishermen who have set their nets in the river. In order to do so, they use long branches that they stick in the river bed.
As you get in the estuary, you can spot the waves of the sea in the distance – the Prek Toek Sap River is meeting the Gulf of Thailand. But the contemplation didn’t last very long, as the boat got stuck in the mud! The only thing left to do was to get off the boat and make it on foot until a village on the other side of the estuary.
In the mud, there were millions of tiny but pointed shells. I realized later that these shells start their life here on the estuary, and end it on the beach on the other side of the hill where I have later found the big empty adult shells.
From the village we got to cross some cultivated areas and some jungle to arrive at the main beach of the park. On the way, we came across a road that was freshly built in the forest, and along the beach a new hotel was being built. I heard this road and hotel are a Chinese investment in the park. I am not sure how good this is for a protected area. Unfortunately, dollars often wins the battle against trees.
The beach was beautiful. The sand is very fine and makes a strange and funny cracking sound when you step on it. If you ignore the Chinese hotel construction, the beach is pure wilderness.
But just like the island of Koh Rong Samloem, I have the unpleasant feeling that it won’t take long for this wilderness to be gone forever as the Ream National Park and the country open more and more to tourism.
It’s a good way to imagine how the concrete-covered tourist-invaded destinations of the region like Phuket of Koh Samui (Thailand) used to look like, when Nature was still untouched.
In any case, a tour to the Real National Park is a cheap and pleasant way of spending a day around Sihanoukville, in a mostly preserved environment. A tour for nature and wild beach lovers!
Address (embarking point): Phum Smak Daeng, National Hwy 4 18 km / 11 mi south east of Sihanoukville
GPS (embarking point): 10°35’7.83″N, 103°40’26.89″E
Best way to go: Organised day trip from Sihanoukville with local agency
Cost of tour: US$ 15-20 for a tour booked via your hotel with a local agency. US$ 65 for a private boat tour.
Duration of tour: Around 8 hours, usually about 8am to 4pm
Best season: November to April